Interview with Festival Director Nina Fiore (ASTORIA FILM FESTIVAL)

The Second Annual Astoria Film Festival will be held May 17-18 2019, in Astoria NY, at the famed Kaufman Astoria Studios. AFFNY2019 will feature short films (under 25 mins) and web series in Comedy, Drama, Documentary, and Experimental genres.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Nina Fiore: The Astoria Film Festival (Astoria NY) is bringing emerging filmmakers together, highlighting their work, and helping them to network with one another to collaborate on future projects. We are especially conscious of reaching out for submissions from various groups of filmmakers who are historically under-represented in the film industry such as PoC, women, LGBTQ, and disabled filmmakers. We also wanted to bring film industry insiders to local youth who have an interest in filmmaking, and we are able to do that with our filmmaking workshops.

2) What would you expect to experience if you attend your upcoming festival?

We aim to create an intimate atmosphere with a warm caring vibe. We want everyone to feel welcome and we want the filmmakers to feel appreciated and cared for. We take a lot of care in selecting the films we screen and grow very attached to them and to their creators/actors in the process. I think our genuine respect and awe at the quality of the work comes through in how we present the films and how we treat the filmmakers.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

The quality of production, the quality of the acting, the quality of the plot and screenwriting, the uniqueness of the material — all of these go into the selection qualifications. We also have at least 2 meetings with all the judges after judging ends where we discuss which films will make the selections. Sometimes those meetings get heated, as there are only so many slots and so many very strong projects, and different judges have different favorite projects.

4) What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

We are motivated to bring the filmmaking community here in Astoria NY together. It’s a very diverse community and there are many filmmakers, actors, directors, and other artists living here. I have also spent a lot of time the past few years working with local after school programs. In doing so, I encountered a lot of middle schoolers who were very interested in filmmaking, but did not have any affordable resources for learning more about it. So bringing local filmmakers together to help us bring filmmaking workshops to local students was also a large motivation for creating and continuing to develop this festival.

5) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

FilmFreeway is a great platform and handles so many different aspects of the festival, it’s been a lifesaver. There are tiny tweaks here and there I’d love to make to it (especially since I have a background in UI/UX Design and digital platform development), but in general, we are extremely happy with it.

6) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

By 2023, it would be wonderful if the Festival was well-regarded for its unique selections and its intimate setting, well-sponsored and financially able to provide funding for under-represented filmmakers, able to provide filmmakers connections to distribution outlets for their films, hosting film events and indie film premieres throughout the year, and containing a robust Education Department with filmmaker workshops in at least 50 local schools.

7) What film have you seen the most times in your life?

Lol. Well, I am a mom of a 10 year old, so over the past 10 years, I’ve watched his favorite movies (currently Coco – which is wonderful!) more times than I’ve ever watched my own favorite movies.

8) In one sentence, what makes a great film?

I think that when all the elements of a film – from story and script, to acting, to production, to music, to editing, come together to make you feel something emotional and to cause the film to stick in your thoughts over time, growing in meaning and appreciation, then that makes it a great film.

9) How is the film scene in your city?

The American Film Industry had many of its beginnings here in Astoria NY. Kaufman Astoria Studios was the Paramount Pictures Lot before Paramount moved out to Hollywood in the 1920s. So there is such a rich filmmaking history here. As a kid, growing up here, I remember walking by the Kaufman lots when they were filming The Wiz and seeing all the tiny taxis from the “Emerald City” set. I’d come out of grade school and run into Sly Stallone, Tom Hanks, Woody Allen — so it was a great place to grow up. However, the Studios aren’t always accessible to the public and the indie film scene here isn’t very strong (although it is of course strong in Manhattan). I enjoy helping the community here connect personally with Kaufman Astoria Studios, and I’d love to bring a more consistent indie film presence here in Astoria. We’d love to host more film events throughout the year, such as indie film premieres and retrospectives, but we are thrilled to contribute to the film industry here today with our film festival and filmmaking workshops.

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